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Sea turtles, shorebirds, colonial seabirds and migratory birds quitely converge near Egmont Key Lighthouse. They are reminders of its fabled days when conch shells answered signals from passing vessels. The current lighthouse, built 1858, is now part of Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge near Tampa. The missing lens gives no clue of its storied past.
As the only lighthouse on the busy passageway from Key West to St. Marks Lighthouse near Tallahassee, it was important. In 1898 during the Spanish American War, Fort Dade was built on Egmont Key as part of a coastal defense system. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, most of the buoys on Florida’s west coast were managed by the depot on Egmont Key.
The lighthouse slowly diminished in importance and in stature. In 1944, the upper portion of the lighthouse was removed along with the Fresnel lens. In 1989, an automated rotating beacon was installed.
In 2013, the Lens pedestal was shipped for restoration to Tallahassee. Perhaps one day the lens will be returned to the truncated Egmont Key Lighthouse and its former glory restored.